Cancellation of SPSP 2020

Dear Colleague, 

It is with great sorrow that we had to first postpone and then cancel the 8th biennial conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP), which was originally scheduled for 7-10 July 2020. The timing of the COVID-19 outbreak, which became a pandemic at the same time as the programme for this conference was being finalised, made international travel to the conference impossible for the vast majority of delegates, including the steering committee and keynote speakers. Additionally, the local organizers at Michigan State University faced insurmountable practical obstacles, just like the organizers at any other institution would face under the current circumstances. For a conference scheduled in July 2021, several arrangements would have had to be made before the end of 2020. Rooms for sessions had to be booked and lodging for participants had to be reserved. This was impossible, because hosted events on campus were forbidden at MSU at least until early 2021.

Another important element was that the numerous pre-pandemic options available in 2019 and early 2020 for local fundraising at MSU became much more restricted, despite valiant efforts by the local organising team in pre-COVID-19 times. This meant that the registration fee would have had to be significantly higher than intended, at a time where the majority of research institutions are freezing their research and travel budget. This would have sharply curtailed the number of participants who would have been able to participate in an in-person SPSP conference. These and other problems were not specific to MSU. If another department in the US or a different country considered taking over for MSU, issues of public health safety, equity, and financial austerity measures or similar problems would have arisen. This meant that a real, on campus SPSP conference that was both safe and inclusive was not possible in 2021. We have considered an online conference, but have decided against it. An online meeting requires human and financial resources (e.g., for paying an online platform and hiring support staff to monitor the sessions) that SPSP as a society does not have at this moment, especially at such short notice and in a climate of serious financial restrictions. We wish to thank all our delegates for submitting wonderful abstracts, all the many people who helped us to set up this meeting, our webmaster Michel Durinx, and the excellent keynotes who had accepted to present at this conference: Till Grüne-Yanoff, Kristie Dotson, Sean A. Valles, Kylie Whyte and Karen Barad.

The steering committee will monitor the ongoing pandemic situation and discuss plans for the future over the coming months, with the goal of deciding when it is safer to schedule the next in-person meeting. In the meantime, we welcome feedback and informal expressions of interest for hosting the conference (please contact Sabina Leonelli at s.leonelli@exeter.ac.uk). Our amazing newsletter team will continue to produce informative magazines through which our community can read the latest news (including about SPSPers’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic), while the mailing list will continue to serve as means to keep in touch with each other and support ongoing SPSP-related initiatives around the world.

Keep well and until soon!

The SPSP Steering Committee and Local Organising Committee